Excited by the pirate bay’s physible concept, you know, the one about 3d printing your footwear? Well here’s a counter argument, made by Nick Cernis, aka the modern nerd.
I do not wish to be told that my 3D printer is out of nanocyan when it’s doing the tricky bits around the laces. I do not dream of discarding twelve pairs of half-printed, mangled, almost shoes in order to get one wearable pair of sort-of-looks-like-shoes-if-you-stand-here-and-squint-a-bit.
I have some experience with 3d printing, having used a 3d printer to mock up the design for social firefly (amongst other architectural models), and I agree that the medium is primarily designed for quick, cheap and cheerful models to help you along your way. Perhaps footwear is the worst example you might have chosen for this – who wants to wince your way about your day, cursing the resin replicant that allows none of the specially designed material comforts you’ve grown accustomed to – jewelry is a more common example and one which could be forgiven for affording a lack of comfort. Below I’ve added a few process shots from Social Firefly to add some texture. They’re here to illustrate the range of fabrication techniques critical to the development of the artwork, but apply equally to things like footwear and products (if not, more so)
In my experience, the 3d print is one of many steps along the way, one which allows for learning to occur in a design process. It’s useful in the same way that handmade models are – you can touch them, feel them, observe how others interact with them, measure and assess their success away from the potentially misleading digital universe found within 3d modeling software packages.
In many ways, if you can’t touch it, you can’t learn from it. This is the real design innovation of 3d printing, not end user convenience.
3d printing really is only one of a handful of useful tools designed to do rapid prototyping, and in concert they do truly sing. I would even go so far as to say that the practice of industrial design (be that of watches, furniture or kettles) has a long history of working with materials, constraints and design problems in this very space, and ought not to be supplanted by off the shelf or DIY product fabrication kits. Not that I think they will, because all things considered, it’s a hobbyists game.
The world has changed. People who hated technology are beginning to fall in love with it. New generations are growing up having never experienced technology when it was hard.
“It just works,” is slowly becoming the default rather than the exception
I couldn’t agree more. It makes me think back to the days when I was the only one who knew how things worked, or for that matter cared. This thing? I don’t know, it just works. I might add, that some people who hated technology for different reasons (diabolical systems, poor interoperability, tech monopolies) are now looking around in wonder at the plethora of people who seem to be starting to talk the same language. That design matters. That a focus on the user is critical. That success doesn’t depend on screwing the user for every possible dollar. They are even starting to gloat with pride at the knowledge that they were the first to jump on the great design bandwagon, and all the resulting success.
Not that I have a problem with it, I simply find it interesting.
I do believe we’ve seen a fairly fundamental shift in computing, away from the age old problem of using computers (not knowing how to) to a point in time where concepts like usability and design are heralding in a new era of technology adoption.
I’m not 100% on this, but I’m starting to wonder if there’s ever been an age when such a large proportion of the population had access to, and made great use of, the one set of technologies. There’s the written word, which has been around for centuries, and there’s the automobile, which could undermine this thesis, but I’m starting to think the technologies that underpin modern society (the Internet, the mobile phone) are becoming more ubiquitous than others. I’m not sure, I’ll come back to you on this.
People will learn to reject machines that make things harder for them. There is no place for ubiquitous 3D printers in this world unless they can avoid the simple frustrations that manufacturers of regular printers could not. And I have my doubts.
It has taken 20 years of trial and error, and the printing industry still hasn’t cracked it. I hate to say it, but I think nick is right. I guess I’ll do the same in 2020, when I run out of sneakers (pun intended) – I’ll go and restock my printer.